Webpage created: July 05, 2017
Webpage updated: January 19, 2020
CORPORATION ALMSHOUSES or THE OLD CHURCH TWELVES
The oldest almshouses in the Borough of Plymouth were certainly in existence by 1491, when they were mentioned in the Corporation rental. The Wardens were set to pay the Corporation 2s 4d that year. The almshouses may have formed part of the manorial property that passed from the Prior of Plympton to the Mayor and Commonalty. Their demolition in 1868 revealed a semi-Norman arch which it was thought formed part of the original Saint Andrew's Church, before the present building was erected.
Known as either the Corporation Almshouses or the "Old Church Twelves", they stood by the side of the Church in what was then Catherine Lane (presently Catherine Street). The houses could accommodate 12 poor widows and a nurse.
The almshouses were well endowed. When the Wardens were paying their rental of 2s 4d, the Prysten House was paying only 2s 1d and Saint Andrew's only 6d. Certainly they were left small piece of land off Buckwell Street, which may have been the land given by a Mr William Randall in September 1561. Just a few months later, one Johanna Lake left the remainder of her land and 'Mother Hacker' gave some land at 'Crosse Downe', at what is now Greenbank, after the death of Thomas Clowter. Clowter himself left the reversion of his house at Briton Side.
It seems that the site of the almshouses was quite extensive and included a herb garden, orchard, fields, barn and even a chapel, which was licensed by Bishop Lacy in 1450. It is recorded in a lease granted in 1602 that one Robert Trelawny built two houses on part of their garden, for which he duly paid rent.
When in 1708 the Governor and Guardians of the Poor in the Town of Plymouth was formed, all the public almshouses in the Borough were supposed to have been handed over to them but the Corporation retained them, as Worth describes: 'as the sole remnant of their charitable trusts'.
It is not known if the Alms-houses were altered in some way but in 1830 Mr Robert Brindley refers to them as being 'for nine aged women [not twelve], who are also allowed 2 shillings per week'. Also, Mr Brindley states that at that time they were supported by voluntary contributions. The Treasurer in 1830 was Mr John Julian.
These almshouses were cleared away in 1868 in preparation for the erection of the new Guildhall and Municipal Offices and the New Church Almshouses in Green Street were rebuilt and enlarged to take up the accommodation.